France, Parksville …wherever there is art

France 2019 was wonderful, and more posts are yet to come. But nothing competes with home, specially if it’s the West coast of Canada and Vancouver Island in particular.

Road trips from Victoria ‘up-island’ are so easy. Even Courtenay, almost halfway to the Island’s northern tip and considered a ways away by lifelong Islanders, is only about 3 hours northwest of Victoria. And Parksville, where our closest and dearest friends live after abandoning the mainland a year ago, is so close Wayne gets us there in under two hours.

We pack a small bag, drive up mid-day, grill up something for supper on our friends’ lanai, and spend the evening playing crib and laughing our heads off. It doesn’t get better! Their comfy guest room guarantees a great sleep, and some time after breakfast we’re heading home through the lush forested hills and valleys of the Island.

And if we feel like it, there’s so many great places en route to stop…for wine-tasting, gourmet lunches, ocean beaches to just sit and be. Life is good!

This last trip though, continuing our 2019 theme of visiting and being inspired by art – installations, galleries, exhibits – we stopped in Parksville at the McMillan Arts Centre. I highly recommend it!

1914 it began as a two-room schoolhouse and, added onto over the years, it schooled children until 1977. The local arts community then bought it and spearheaded its restoration and in 1986 opened the McMillan Arts Centre. Exhibits, classes, performances, a lovely gift store, the MAC is a lively, engaging and busy place.

Soft Shore…where land and water meet was on offer in the Concert Gallery, an exquisite tribute in glass, steel, cedar, and more to our west coast salmon. Robert Held was a long-time mainland glass artist with a Kitsilano hot shop who left glass work – or so he thought – for Parksville several years ago. But the artist in him was not done, and so today you can find his work, and that of others, in his gallery in Parksville. It’s the quonset hut just on the left once you cross the bridge into Parksville heading north.

His contribution to Soft Shore is this suspended school of glass fish, shimmering, swaying, tinkling in the center of the Gallery.

And nearby, Nelson Shaw’s sculpture of glass salmon, steel grasses, and driftwood and stones, captures the grace and strength of this creature we often take for granted.

Nuu-chah-nulth artist and historian Haa ‘Yuups’ spiritually-based piece hangs at the far end of the Gallery, an expression of “Histakshitl ts’awaatskwi” – We come from One Root. Haa ‘Yuups, of the Hupacasath Nation of the Alberni Valley, was named last year as Co-Curator of a two year restoration and conservation project at the American Museum of Natural History, highlighting First Nations cultures of the Pacific Northwest.

And I could have hung out far longer in the Centre’s beautifully-curated Gift Store. Museum and art centre stores are always the coolest places to find gifts – for others and for yourself! With 140 local artists represented, this is one of the best I’ve seen, and what better way to honour someone – or yourself!- than with a beautiful hand-made piece of someone’s creative heart.

I love this artist’s earrings. Robert Cerins, Cowichan Valley. I have numerous pairs. Found in good gift stores – museums, etc. Very reasonably priced, too!

Drive to Parksville. Have lunch. Walk the beachside boardwalk. And go hang out at the McMillan Arts Centre. Your heart and soul will be happy you did. I know mine were.

Until next time…